Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I hope somebody at Rio Tinto sees this

I guess what goes around comes around

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who wants to see a free and ethical PRC

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

In Praise of Bad Men

Lots of Hong Kong bloggers, myself included, not to mention political figures, business types and even the normally thicker journalist and dim witted singers and actors have made a steady habit of criticizing Donald Tsang who is somewhat affectionally known as the Human Bow tie (THBT) on this blog.

We've called him all sorts of names, defamed his ancestry and disparaged his competence, intelligence and fitness for his job. However, I think that it is possible that I and all the others have been disappointed in THBT may have missed the point. The problem with Donald Tsang isn't that he is incompetent but that he is not mean enough. Oh he has a reputation for being petty and vindictive but those traits only rise slightly above the level of banality and give him the appearance of a bumbler making him him an easy target. THBT does not strike me as a ruthless man.

I was thinking about this because I've been thinking about the story of the prodigal son. Normally when we think of this story we think of forgiveness and the impetuousness of youth or the love of parents for their children. For some reason, I thought of the Byzantine emperor Justinian. He was a general, the adopted son of a general who was raised to the purple after one of the many civil wars that plagued Byzantium. Justinian then became the second in that dynasty after the death of his adopted father. He was also, in a very real way a returned prodigal because he wanted to give up the throne and was persuaded not to.

He was not a large man, slender and soft spoken. He married for love not politics which was rare in those days and would have been happy to remain a general. Not the image of the strong and tall emperor. He was also a blond haired, blue eyed man in a city of black haired, brown eyed Greeks and felt their dislike of him. Shortly after becoming emperor, the city of Constantinople was ravaged by riots. Justinian wanted to either abdicate or take the royal treasury and move the capital to his native Carthage. He was stopped by his wife, Theodora, who literally grabbed him by tunic and asked: "How many men would have given everything to wear the purple for only an hour? How many would have wished for the glory you have? Do you wish to be remembered as a defeated emperor, a man who gave up the throne?"

Justinian quelled the riots. This man who was described as gentle and soft spoken, who seldom raised his voice killed 40000 inhabitants of Constantinople to put down riots. He then borrowed money from the Greek Orthodox church to finance a a series of wars in an attempt to reconquer the Western part of the Roman empire. He defeated the armies of the Vandals, Berbers, Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Persians. He also build huge, magnificent churches and cathedrals. Under his leadership the Byzantine Empire reached its greatest territorial size.

We remember him as Justinian the Great. He is considered a Saint and "Right Believing" emperor in the Greek Church. Yet, when he died there was rejoicing in the streets. The people he ruled did not love him. They didn't like the heavy tax burden he'd imposed or the repressive measures he used to control the empire.

The point? Simply Justinian was more concerned about Byzantium than what people thought of him personally. He pursued the goal enhancing the glory and size of Byzantium ruthlessly. All great men and women have this trait. History may call them villains or it may remember them as heroes. It appears to me that most great men are a mixture of the two. Patton slapping a soldier, Scott letting men die to reach South Pole; Columbus confronting his mutinous crew with a swivel cannon, the examples are endless. Whether the great person is remember as a hero or villain is sometimes a matter of perspective but often goes to their motives as well. It also has something to do with whether or not they knew when to stop. Patton slapped the solider but didn't have him executed.

Donald Tsang, THBT is simply not ruthless enough. He is to concerned about people thinking of him as a nice guy. He needs to have a bad streak, maybe engage some dirty pool. He needs to take some initiative to do what he feels is right even if it is unpopular.

He be a lot more effective leader if he did.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who isn't very mean either

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I'm back!

The really pretty-looks-25-years-younger-than-she-is-smart-and-loving wife and I just got back from an early summer vacation in Thailand. Thailand is a really interesting place. It has a great climate, friendly natives, good beer, cool things to see, nice beaches, a fair amount English and Chinese speakers, and low prices. It is probably my favorite place in Asia outside of Hong Kong and one of the few Asian countries I can see myself retiring to at some point. If they could just get their political shenanigans under control.

However, give me the doofi in yellow shirts who were upset that a man won an election with a bare 70% of the vote any day. I'd also take what is happening in Honduras any day to what we have happening in Hong Kong today.

Today is "Repatriation Day" in Hong Kong. We've been officially a part of China again for 12 years. This morning we had the paid, rent-a-mob parade in support of the government. I know many of the marchers were not from Hong Kong because they were all speaking Mandarin rather than Cantonese. This afternoon we will have the various 800 groups that want to protest that the government isn't giving out enough handouts or are upset at this or that or something else. They are probably locals and will be marching the same route under the mistaken hope that someone in the government will care. I think that both groups have missed the point. Neither one see the real benefit Hong Kong could be to China or the real threat facing Hong Kong from China.

Don't misunderstand. The Chinese in general and Hong Kongers in particular are reasonably unbothered from the government. While the odious British were here they were their normal alcoholic, antisemitic, pompous, racist, elitist, atheist, snobby selves. So I am not yearning for a return to British rule and laws that prevented Chinese from owning land or housing in certain neighborhoods and such. We are freer now than when the Bloody British were here. Indeed, the Chinese are, on the whole, as non-threatened by their government as any Western nation. I know there are some ideologues that will dispute that but it is really true.

I am, however; upset that the British didn't do a better job preparing Hong Kongers for self government. One need look no farther than the remaining corps of "civil servants" the British left us with to know that they didn't want anyone with tilted eyes and a bridgeless nose to ever think for themselves. Tung Che Wa, our first CE was incompetent because he was an out and out toadie for Beijing. He had no governmental experience. Since he inherited his money he had no real business experience either. He was the son of a wealthy tycoon and the civil servants and the PRC played him like a tin fiddle. When he lost his usefulness they discarded him. Probably the worst thing you can say about him was that he was outsmarted by Anson Chan. My God, how embarrassing is that? But, just when we thought it couldn't get worse it did. Donald Tsang, The Human Bow Tie (THBT) is worse. He is not only an obsequious toadie but if possible more incompetent than Tung ever was. He is also to stupid to know what an obsequious toad he is and to arrogant to admit it if he did. With Tung Che Wa I always got the impression that he knew he was a figure head and in over his depth. In that regard Tung Che Wa was a tragic figure. THBT thinks he is man for the job. I would agree if he believed his calling was to be a circus clown.

Yet, THBT is also a tragic figure. He is a product of the "Yes Sir," "No thank you" British colonial system that removed any ability to think from his psyche. That fact means that unless he is replaced with a PLA general the next Hong Kong CE will probably be as bad or worse and can only be marginally better. A PLA general could at least get the water pipes fixed and building codes enforced. Holy Cow; THBT's Tai-Tai still manages the family finances and makes him take a bag lunch to work. The guy can't decide what color tie to wear on his own.

That brings me to the link on my title. Martin Freeberg had a brilliant post on his blog titled:“We Are Under the Thumb of Idiots”(Scroll Down) All I can say is, Martin, try living in Hong Kong! We've got lots of experience being ruled by those who still need to be told what to do.

That is a shame. Hong Kong could be the greatest gift ever received by the Chinese people. Hong Kongers could have taught the Chinese what it means to be free. Not free in the sense of choosing your career or little things like being able to own your property (In some ways China is freer in those things than Hong Kong.) but free. Freedom is not simply a lack of rules but the ability to challenge rules. Hong Kong could have taught China that the mark of a civilized society is not having a "Harmonious Society" but one where people can respectfully disagree each other and the government. Freedom and harmony are mutually exclusive in this sense. When the PRC says "Harmony" it means control. Instead we whine that the government isn't giving us enough cash to cover our poor financial decisions.

The greatest threat to Hong Kong is that it is populated by officials like THBT who cannot think for themselves and only do as they are told. If THBT politely stood up to Beijing just once, even if it meant loosing his USD $40,000 a MONTH salary and said: "I am not less patriotic because I think you are wrong and I want you to reconsider your position and live up to the Chinese constitution" to his Beijing puppet masters then I would donate money to have his statue erected in Chatter Garden. That is the lesson that the PRC needs to learn. That citizens can disagree and still be loyal citizens. It is a lesson that the British should have prepared Hong Kong to teach to greater China. The Britdogs couldn't see past their beer and bank accounts and Hong Kong and China are worse for it. I am worried that next year, or the year after, the DAB won't have to rent a mainland crowd.

Yet, there does not appear to be any serious opposition to the governmental group think. If the best we can do is keep trotting out Long Hair Leung to curse and throw fruit at other legislators we are doomed.

Thailand is looking better all the time. I hope yellow or red shirted protesters don't close the Bangkok airport when it is time for me to leave.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who really does like Hong Kong despite how it seems